NEW YORK — Weis Markets was just about to kick off its four-week Believe in Heroes fund-raising campaign to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project charity, when the worst storm in modern memory slammed ashore.
“That was the big week [for Believe in Heroes], and we had 32 stores down because of Sandy,” Kurt Schertle, executive vice president of sales and merchandising at the chain, told SN at a dinner here Thursday evening celebrating the fund-raiser.
Still, he said, Weis has been able to raise $150,000 for Wounded Warriors, a charity that seeks to assist injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the two years that the company has participated.
Weis’ contribution this year was part of a $5 million donation presented to Wounded Warrior Project by Acosta Sales & Marketing, Jacksonville, Fla., which founded the Believe in Heroes campaign in 2010. This year’s total represented a $1.5 million increase from the contribution raised in 2011. About 55 supplier brands and 90-plus retailers participated in this year’s program.
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Believe in Heroes centers around an ad insert offering high-value coupons circulated to nearly 53 million households nationwide in Sunday, Nov. 4, newspapers. Retailers supported the campaign in-store with special signage and point-of-purchase materials and raised funds through donations at the register and other initiatives.
Although the campaign ran from Sept. 11 through Nov. 11, Weis said it kicked off its effort this year the same week that Hurricane Sandy hit.
“The storm took donations in a couple of different directions,” Schertle explained. “There were a lot of people worried about their homes, their families, their friends and neighbors.”
Weis participates through a variety of activities, including selling bracelets and promoting participating product brands with in-store radio and point-of-sale displays, said Greg Oldright, director of Center Store at Weis. In addition, Weis stages a contest among cashiers to see who can sell the most bracelets.
“We’re interested to see how we can maximize this,” said Schertle. “We’re in this to stay, and we think Wounded Warriors is a great organization.”
Robert E. Hill Jr., president and chief executive officer, Acosta, told SN that while Sandy might have had some impact on the Believe in Heroes campaign, he thinks the importance of the cause helped overcome whatever negative effects the storm might have inflicted.
“People are so passionate about this cause, that obstacles have not gotten in the way,” he said.
He said he expects the program to continue to expand as awareness around the need for support for wounded veterans grows — some 50,000 military personnel have returned home from the wars with physical injuries, and another 300,000 have some mental or emotional injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s a complicated challenge,” he said. “The main thing is that we have to keep building awareness. We’re selling a few groceries, but the important thing is that we are building awareness for a great cause.”
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Tom Robinson, senior vice president of merchandising at Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion, said the Delhaize-owned chain raised $935,000 for the cause this year, the second year in which it participated in Believe in Heroes.
“Given the geography of the military bases in the South, and given the number of our customers and employees in the military and with family in the military, this is a great way for us to connect with them,” he told SN.
Food Lion ties the campaign in with its own efforts supporting the armed services, he explained, such as a 12% discount on groceries offered to all military families on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. That one-day effort attracted 81,000 customers this year, he noted.
“Supporting the Wounded Warrior Project has become very special for us,” he said. “We do a lot of things to support our troops, and this fits right in with that.”
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